Amid the continued burden of the pandemic on the global health sector, the Jamaican Northeast Diaspora, under the auspices of Alison Wilson, consul general to New York, in collaboration with the local Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jamaicans Aboard Helping Jamaicans At Home (JAHJAH) Foundation and other partnering organisations have spearheaded a special COVID-19 mission team to Jamaica.
Over the period October 17 to December 1, the team of volunteers comprising of Jamaicans in the Diaspora and friends of Jamaica in the United States, will travel to the island to support and assist the staff and COVID-19 care programmes at the Savanna-la-mar Public General Hospital (SPGH).
The Jamaican Government, in a recent announcement, stated that a field hospital is under construction for the parish and will provide additional bed spaces for the growing number of patients at SPGH.
The more than 60 mission volunteers will work in the newly constructed tent upon its completion, as well as offer services in the main hospital.
The mandate of the mission’s medical team, which comprises of physicians, physician assistants, public health nurses, registered nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, among other specialised clinicians, is to:
- Assist in the intake of COVID-19 patients at field hospital to alleviate overcrowding at the general hospital
- Provide additional ICU care where applicable
- Ensure that COVID-19 patients receive timely care and recovery without complications
- Collaborate with the public health system in the parish of Westmoreland to provide efficient health care delivery in this moment of crisis.
The call to action of the mission team was in direct response to the growing concerns – of the JAHJAH Foundation, Jamaicans within the Diaspora and friends of Jamaica in the United States – about the latest increase in cases and deaths due to the deadly virus and the effect it is having on the health sector and local economy.
They said the arrival of the Delta variant became a painful and life-threatening reality which accelerated the need to get more involved.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced the mission’s upcoming arrival during a recently held town hall meeting.
Tufton noted that the parish has had its fair share of outbreaks, and that the hospital has had significant challenges in terms of bed space and lacks resources to effectively cope with the increased COVID-19 related cases. He also stated that there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 related deaths and that he therefore welcomed any support which would ease the burden.
To date, members of staff have reported extreme exhaustion, mental breakdowns and other health-related issues as the hospital continues to be overburdened.
To assist in this regard, the mission team will have a strong focus on mental health, led by Lorraine Smith, a US nationally certified mental health expert, who will provide counseling services.
Other key lead partners to the mission include
- Karen Shields – local contact/coordinator, Jamaican liaison for JAHJAH Foundation
- Dr Karren Dunkley – lead mission organiser and Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Northeast USA representative
- Claudette Powell, mission organiser, nurse leader and chair of the NE Diaspora Health Sector
- Savanna-la-mar Public General Hospital Barracks Road Savanna La Mar, Westmoreland
- Dr Trevor Dixon – on site team leader and CEO/founder of JAHJAH Foundation
- Dr Robert Clarke – on site team leader and founder of HELP Jamaica Mission
- Dr Gary Rhule – on site team leader
- Dr Michael Morgan – on site team leader
- Dr Jean Powell – on site team leader
Fully vaccinated individuals who wish to volunteer, can visit the entity’s website, www.janed.org, to register.